Kirkwood, Eastern Cape

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Kirkwood is located in South Africa
 Kirkwood shown within South Africa
Coordinates: 33°24′01″S 25°26′33″E / 33.40028°S 25.44250°E / -33.40028; 25.44250Coordinates: 33°24′01″S 25°26′33″E / 33.40028°S 25.44250°E / -33.40028; 25.44250
Country South Africa
Province Eastern Cape
District Cacadu
Municipality Sundays River Valley
 • Total 4.49 km2 (1.73 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 5,371
 • Density 1,200/km2 (3,100/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African 22.9%
 • Coloured 57.6%
 • Indian/Asian 0.4%
 • White 18.3%
 • Other 0.9%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • Afrikaans 82.6%
 • Xhosa 12.6%
 • English 2.4%
 • Other 2.5%
Postal code (street) 6120
PO box 6120
Area code 042

Kirkwood is a town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It is situated on the banks of the Sundays River in the eponymously named Sundays River Valley, which forms part of the Sundays River Valley Municipality in the Cacadu District of the Eastern Cape.

Geography and climate[edit]

Kirkwood is situated about 80 km (50 mi) from the Indian Ocean and about 100 meters (330 ft) above sea level.

The South African Weather Bureau recorded a temperature of 50.3 °C (122.5 °F) in Kirkwood in 1928 - the highest temperature ever recorded in South Africa.[2]

To the north of Kirkwood are the Rietberg Mountains with the Uyepoort (Uye Gateway), which provides passage to the Zuurberg Mountains and the Addo Elephant National Park.


The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir John Francis Cradock, gave the first farms in the Sundays River Valley to the leaders of the successful burger commandos for their role in the victories in the border wars of 1811 and 1812.

These farms were awarded to Magistrate Cuyler (originally from the United States) of Uitenhage, who received Geelhoutboom (Yellow Tree, later Dunbrody); Commandant Ignatius Muller, who received Klaaskraal (Klaas' Corral, situated just outside what is now Kirkwood) and Field Cornet J.S. van Niekerk, who received Gouwernements Belooning (Government's Reward). It is on the latter farm that Kirkwood would be established many decades later.

In 1877 James Somers Kirkwood, an auctioneer from Port Elizabeth, arrived to auction off Gouwernements Belooning. When a flooded Sundays River prevented Kirkwood from reaching this farm he climbed a nearby hill (known today as The Lookout) instead. From there he had a view of the entire valley and had a vision of the valley - which was overgrown by bushes at the time - being transformed into irrigated fields with fruit trees. He also envisioned this farm produce being delivered via river barges to Port Elizabeth.

Shortly afterwards, James himself purchased "Goewernements Belooning" as well as some other farms in the valley. He subsequently founded the Sundays River Land and Irrigation Company as well as the village of Bayville.

Later, Kirkwood started to prepare the land for irrigation, but despite of a very positive prospectus and very good publicity, nobody was interested in buying stock in his venture. One of the reasons may be that it coincided with the big diamond rush to Kimberley. In consequence, his company eventually failed and was declared bankrupt. Kirkwood died in 1889, a financially and spiritually broken man.

However, Kirkwood can be considered to have been ahead of his time as his vision became true in the next century when the Sundays River Irrigation Project and eventually the Orange River Water Project were built. His name also lives on in the town of Kirkwood that was founded in 1912 on his first farm, Gouwernements Belooning.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Sundays River formed the eastern border of the then Cape Colony and was the area around Kirkwood consequently the scene of many armed conflicts - Khoi against Xhosa, Khoi and Xhosa together against the Boers and British together and finally the Boers against the British during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

During this war, General Jan Smuts and his Commando of 250 men passed through the valley on their epic campaign to the northwest. Indeed, the three Boers who died the furthest south during the war were killed on Cecil John Rhodes's farm Brakkefontein. Shortly after these casualties were incurred a major battle took place on the Bedrogsfontein mountain pass.[3]


Kirkwood's subtropical climate makes it ideal for the growing of citrus fruits and this has made it the citrus capital of the Eastern Cape. Indeed, Kirkwood is the center of one of the largest citrus-growing regions in South Africa with approximately 120 square kilometres (30,000 acres) of citrus orchards. Approximately 18 million cartons of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other citrus fruit are exported from this region each year.

The Sundays River Citrus Company employs approximately 1500 people on a seasonal basis to pack the export citrus. There are packhouses in Kirkwood, Addo and Summerville.

Kirkwood is also the capital town of the Sundays River Valley Municipality, which also includes places such as Paterson, Addo and Enon, and has a total population of about 70,000 people.

Roses are also grown in the area and there are several game farms situated nearby. The town also hosts an annual Wildlife Festival.

A panoramic view of Kirkwood and the surrounding citrus groves is possible from The Lookout in the Rietberg Mountains, where Kirkwood had his vision. The Lookout is also well known as a dinosaur fossil site. The first complete dinosaur fossil to be found in South Africa, nicknamed "Kirky", was discovered near here. Kirky was smaller than 2 meters.[3]

Famous people who were born or lived there[edit]

  • Theo Aronson was a famous biographer of European royalty. He died in 2003.
  • Kemp J Kemp is the advocate who defended Jacob Zuma, the current President of South Africa, in his rape trial. He was born and bred in the Eastern Cape town of Kirkwood and is considered one of the University of Port Elizabeth’s brightest law students. Kemp matriculated from Kirkwood High School in 1969 and according to local historian Stef Delport, he was one of Sundays River Valley’s brightest and most talented scholars. By the time he received his LLB Cum Laude in 1975, Kemp had earned his Eastern Province colours in athletics and played for UPE’s first rugby team on the wing. His law professor at the time, Tertius Delport, said he was appointed as lecturer in the law department right after his studies and it took him only three years to complete his doctorate degree in the law of delict, which deals with negligence and malpractice.
  • Monde Ngonyama, current Deputy Chairperson of the National Film and Video Foundation and a published writer. Monde Ngonyama has been a board member of the Port Elizabeth Opera House and is an executive member of the Cape Provincial Arts and Culture council.
  • Vusumzi Nobadula, is a journalist, copy editor, author and great thinker who is currently based in Cape Town. He now works as a Copy Editor for the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa - 90 Plein Street, Cape Town. He has more than 15 years' experience in the journalism industry. Vusumzi worked as a senior subeditor for "Drum Magazine" & "City Press" (Media24); "Eastern Cape Herald" (Avusa); "Cape Argus", "Cape Times" & "Pretoria News" (Independent Newspapers) and "The New Age". Vusumzi has contributed written material to publications such as "City Press", "Sunday Independent", "Pretoria News", "Drum Magazine", "Sowetan", "Sunday Times", "Cape Times", "The Times", "Rootz magazine" and the "New African" magazine, to name just a few. His work is now published mainly by "The Thinker" literary magazine - which is edited by Dr Essop Pahad. He is a highly skilled multimedia practitioner and experienced in translation work (Xhosa, English dual medium), proofreading and editing. He has just finished writing his seminal work titled "They Killed Their God" - which will be published this year, 2014. The book is about how impoverished people can extricate themselves from a life of poverty and hopelessness. He is now busy writing his second book in Xhosa, titled "Ndixol' Ukujing' Iliso". The second book is about community leadership in one of the many informal settlements in the city of Cape Town.

Thoko Ntshinga Attended her primary school at Bersheba, Enon. She has been in the Theatre and Film Industry for 36 yrs. has lectured in the Drama Department at the University of Cpe Town. Winner of the Fleur Du Cap Award 2012 'best supporting actress in a play in Mies Julie. Thoko Ntshinga works as a dramaturg, performer, translator,theatre for development practitioner and a life coach. She has traveled the world with play


  1. ^ a b c d "Main Place Kirkwood". Census 2011. 
  2. ^ Kirkwood Geskiedenis
  3. ^ a b "History and Culture." Sundays River Valley Municipality website. Retrieved on 14 October 2009.